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Taking Back the Marathon: For Bandits

The Boston Marathon has traditionally been a day of partying for local college students, with little focus on the running of the race itself. However, the tragic bombings that occurred on April 15th, 2013 have inspired many to run in 2014. Taking Back the Marathon features Boston College students who are planning to run in the 2014 Boston Marathon, along with the stories behind their motivation to make this year’s race one to remember.

Jim Andersen, A&S '14

Completing and helping to organize the Campus School Bandit Marathon, which took place last Sunday the 13th, gave me the privilege of a dual role in one of Boston College’s more remarkable stories this year.  When the Campus School Marathon Team, two-thirds of the way into its training for the Boston Marathon, was denied the ability to run the race due to new security measures this year, I broke the news and was a member of the group that planned the reconfiguration of the team as a group determined to run the route anyway, on a separate day.  The ensuing success of the event holds, I think, an undeniable inspirational quality.  Inspirational moments always reveal to us things that were previously obscured—they insist that we revise our prior perceptions to allow for new revelations or simply things that had been somehow forgotten; and so, having been asked to reflect on the Bandit Marathon, I’ll discuss my most immediate takeaways in the hopes of enabling the event’s illuminative power to reach even more people.

"Running the Bandit Marathon this year meant a lot to me personally; I wanted to prove to myself that I could accomplish the goal that I had set out to accomplish during my last year as a senior at BC. Whenever I felt like giving up or slowing down throughout the course, I would remind myself of those that I was running for – for John from the Campus School, and for the victims that deserve a united and strong Boston that has not, and will not, forget them." - Elyse Diaz, A&S '14

Photo courtesy of Jim Andersen/Facebook

Photo courtesy of Jim Andersen/Facebook

The first of my takeaways is that the Campus School, at least in its current constitution, will never go away; that is, it will never be altered in a manner that would affect the unique culture of the organization.  That was in doubt this fall; for me it no longer is.  The community is too spirited and too dedicated to preserving its culture.  Along the 26.2 mile route we were met at regular intervals by Campus School students and parents, who had driven to coordinated locations to offer invaluable refreshments and food, not to mention much-appreciated encouragement.  What does it say about the inherent power of the program that close to 100 runners could draw enough strength largely from nonspeaking fans and their parents to complete a marathon?  After Campus School families’ water stops were passed by all of the runners, those families drove up and down the course honking and yelling to runners, lending even more encouragement.  After an event like this, it’s not difficult to see why the Campus School won its fight earlier this year to stay in its current location—it’s just too strong and positive a community to be broken up.

"I was running with our students last year.  I avoided the chaos of the finish line – I am terribly slow and was four miles away when the race was stopped.  When I walked back to BC from Mile 22, I was with a pack of runners who were frightened, exhausted, and desperate to reach their loved ones.  Our students, on what had been a day of celebration, immediately shifted gears. They bought the runners food, guided them to shelter, lent their phones, comforted the anxious, and rallied to coordinate support for strangers.  It wasn’t first-responder bravery, but it represented the best of our community – a spot change from the party to the urgency." - Professor John Gallaugher, '88

But of course, the Campus School was not the only group out on the route for the Bandit Marathon, and that leads to my second takeaway: that the students of Boston College will always come out to support fellow students who are displaying their best talent and effort.  I can’t underestimate the difficulty of training for and completing a marathon, especially for novice or beginner runners.  The team persevered and excelled, and for that they were rewarded—as Boston College students who persevere and excel always are—by the attendance and support of their peers.  I like to think that those who came to see us at our best on Marathon Sunday will be accordingly inspired to be at their best in their next big endeavor, whatever that may be, and I know that I will be there to support them when their moments arrive, because that in turn will help me with my next big effort; and that’s what makes Boston College strong.  I’ve run the Boston Marathon twice, and I don’t hesitate to say that the intimate “tunnel” created by the students who lined both sides of the sidewalk from College Road to Saint Ignatius was a bigger boost than the massive but indecipherable support characteristic of Marathon Monday—not in regard to adrenaline, but in regard to the motivating realization of what BC students will do to support one another.

"I ran the marathon with the campus school team last year and was stopped .4 miles from the finish line. I was completely discouraged and a day that had been absolutely incredible up until the end had quickly taken a turn for the worse. I became so stuck on thinking of the negatives and it was something I could not move past. I soon realized that this was only hurting me more and while what happened that day can never be forgotten, I began looking at the positives as well, such as the stranger who let me borrow his phone to contact my parents or the young boy who got me a water bottle and a garbage bag to wear for my walk back to BC. Now, I couldn't be more excited to cheer on those running by BC on April 21 because it truly is time for those runners to take back what is rightfully theirs." - Dana Egan, LSOE '15

I’d be remiss if I didn’t credit the city of Boston and its surrounding towns with a similar willingness to support.  At our low-key finish line on Boylston Street, Campus School volunteers and parents were joined by unrelated bystanders who inquired about the commotion and decided to stay and cheer upon learning that the runners in the Bandit shirts had in fact started 26.2 miles away.  At other points along the route, veteran runners preparing for the Boston Marathon stopped at our water stations to ask about our event and express their congratulations on being a part of such a dedicated and talented group.

"Determination got me through brutal Boston winter training, but because of all this hard work, my spirit was absolutely crushed when I found out that we wouldn't be able to run this year. Later, I realized that this was a bit selfish of me. I knew I wasn't really running for myself, but it is hard not to let it turn into that, because running is such a personal sport. Being part of the Bandit Marathon put everything back in perspective for me. During the run, I honestly just felt so honored to be able to run and raise money for these deserving people. They stood out in the rain and drove up and down the course cheering for us and even thanking us! I have never been so affected by such an outpouring of support." - Camilla Creatura, A&S '15

Those qualified runners also expressed their lament that we, clearly such a driven team, had been cut out of this year’s marathon for reasons unrelated to us or in fact to any runners.  But there was no pity necessary for this group; I can strongly attest to that.  Ask the runners.  Look at the pictures.  Who would need sympathy for being part of such an event?  Maybe you can think of people.  But if you can, you are thinking of people very different than any of the Campus School Bandits.

"Making it to the finish line was by far the best feeling. It wasn't the distance of 26.2 miles that I was just proud of accomplishing. But it was the feeling of setting myself out to do what I thought I was incapable of achieving. I am truly thankful for having been given the opportunity to be part of the Campus School Bandit Marathon. I cannot wait to see what next year has in store for me!"- Sothavy Doeur, LSOE '15

My final takeaway, my last thing now evident to me though previously obscured, is that there is a segment of Boston College—maybe a very large segment—that isn’t well-suited for debates or headlines. That doesn’t have an obvious niche. That fits in too well to be noteworthy but not enough to be completely comfortable. That is energetic and quirky but often not loud enough to prove it. That has a definition of fun that sometimes seems like it needs a word separate from the one everyone else is using—that this segment of people exists here at BC; and that if you have these people on your side, you can turn a crazy idea into an absolute bonanza.  The fundraising numbers aren’t all in yet, but the total might be above $35,000.

Bandits: I salute you.  And to the hundreds of other people who made the event worthwhile, don’t exclude yourselves: if you were crazy enough to be a part of this, then you just might be a Bandit too.

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